Seven years ago, my husband took a job in a small town. The biggest sacrifice for me was giving up access to various ethnic cuisines. Back in the day, we often went out for Mediterranean, Indian, Thai, or Korean food not to mention Chinese, Japanese, and German.
In our current location, we’re limited to Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. We’re even limited on our choices for Italian. At least living in Arizona, we have a variety of pretty good Mexican restaurants. We also have good pizza, steak, and barbecue.
When we visit my family in Indiana we try to make it to the German restaurant in my hometown. I’ve eaten in several German restaurants across the U.S., and it’s by far my favorite.
This week, my family is on a mini-vacation in Phoenix and Tucson. We have an ever-expanding list of “must eat” locations in these towns. So far we scratched our fish taco itch at Rubio’s and enjoyed The Old Spaghetti Factory. Browned butter and mizithra cheese is in a class by itself especially when paired with clam sauce. If I’d eaten this dish at home, I would have licked my plate. In Tucson, we feasted on a Middle Eastern buffet. The food was delicious. I have little self-control when it comes to dolmades. There was fall off the bone roasted lamb and this ridiculously good combination of pickled vegetables.
On the way to the restaurant, our ten-year-old pointed out an advertisement for Korean barbecue. We introduced him to tabletop cookery a couple of years ago and now he’s as big a fan as I am. Tomorrow night’s dinner is planned as well as lunch. For our midday meal, we’re headed to a place that specializes in Oaxacan Mexican food. It’s a favorite place of my husband’s from when he used to work in Tucson.
What does this have to do with writing? Food and drink are some of my favorite things about characters and sometimes my greatest frustration. A couple of years ago I read three books in a row that made a big deal about characters trying and hating raw oysters. It drove me nuts. They’re one of my all-time favorite food indulgences. Last week I read a book where the character tried and hated escargot. That’s another food treat for me.
Then again, over Christmas vacation, I posted a picture of the chicken foot I ate at a Chinese restaurant in Albuquerque. Of course being in New Mexico, I tried to pass it off as an alien foot from Roswell. So yeah, I’m kind of a stunt eater.
My own characters surprise me. In one series I’m writing, my characters made known their licorice preferences. One likes Red Vines and the red laces, which I’m not even sure they make anymore. The characters also have signature soft drinks. My heroine loves Coca-Cola, the hero Dr. Pepper, and another couple Mountain Dew.
In my non-Earth-based stories, food and drink are a great way to establish various cultures. In one of my works in progress, the heroine is mixed-race. She identifies with her mother’s people but has been raised in her father’s culture. At seventeen, she moves to her mother’s homeland and realizes that she’s at home even though it’s also foreign to her. Immediately, she falls in love with the cuisine.
Food is a great way to gather and separate people by adventurous or timid, old or young, rich or poor, cultured or sheltered.
What is your favorite Ethnic cuisine?